Continuing with the series of profiles on VDO’s multi-faceted tennis players, another very interesting person in our tennis community is 3.5 player Faye Wilson. |
Faye was born in Portage La Prairie, Manitoba (near Winnipeg) where she graduated from high school. She played softball and, early on, got interested in sewing. Faye took sewing lessons for a year, then became an assistant to her sewing teacher. In fact, Faye got a part-time job after school as a seamstress in a dry cleaning company and also cuffed pants for two stores. Apparently, in those days, buttons had to be removed before dry cleaning and sewed back on, which she did. By working after school hours, she was able to save enough money to pay her way through three years of nursing school. In 1963 she obtained her R.N. designation in nearby Winnipeg. Faye never lost her passion for sewing, and is currently a monitor in the VDO sewing room one night a week. Faye made the aprons for the VDO tennis kitchen as well as the flag.
Pretty much immediately after graduating from nursing school, she moved to Churchill Manitoba with her fiancé Lee Wilson, who was transferred there as the grocery manager for the local Hudson Bay store. As an aside to Faye’s story, Churchill is on Hudson Bay and is the number one place in the world to see Polar Bears, Beluga whales and the Northern lights! It is also one of the top three places to see migrating birds. On the down-side the population at the moment is around 700 people and it can get bone-chillingly cold. So cold that the floors in Faye’s trailer would freeze after washing and the bedding froze to the walls!
As a newly minted nurse, Faye was thrown into the breach as a public health nurse – when she had never even encountered measles, chicken pox, etc. She says she was ‘as green as grass’. Two years later, in August of 1965 she and her now husband were on their way to California. She was expecting their first child, daughter Lee-Anne. The night before they were to move, hubby changed his mind and they moved to British Columbia instead. Faye, who was six month pregnant and also had a german shepherd puppy, was ‘dumped’ into a motel while Lee went job hunting. In very short order they had bought a nice house in the Kitsilano section of Vancouver, a very trendy, beach oriented section of the city. She was hired by the Vancouver General hospital on a part time basis and along the way the couple added two sons to the family (Garth and Kevin). Faye began to dabble in cycling as a stress reliever and the rest of that story is remarkable, to say the least. Her husband went back to school and became a special constable with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) and, as so often happens, their marriage unraveled in 1988.
In 1989, Faye got involved with a cycling club (CCCTS – Cross Canada Cycle Tour Society). She didn’t know a soul, but her interest in cycling was blossoming. To say she got hooked is somewhat of an understatement! Her first of many long, long cycling trips was from Vancouver south along the Pacific coast to Santa Barbara, California with her new found cycling enthusiasts, the CCCTS group. Faye says cycling is an inexpensive way to travel as the group camped in tents along the way and endeavoured to keep costs to a minimum, wherever in the world they travelled. And travel they did!! The group varied in size with each trip but generally there were sixteen to twenty riders and the trips were anywhere from two weeks to two months.
In 1990, she flew to Winnipeg with her bike and cycled to St. John’s Newfoundland with the group. In 1993 she cycled the other half of the country, from Vancouver to Winnipeg. For those of you unfamiliar with the size of Canada, that is over 4,600 miles. Each of these trips included a support van (“SAG wagon”) ferrying their camping gear, food and personal belongings.
In 1991 she flew to New Zealand and the group cycled both the north and south islands for six weeks.
In 1992, for a “milestone’ birthday (propriety dictates that I not reveal which milestone) she went on a six week cycling tour from Frankfurt, Germany to Budapest, Hungary with two of her girlfriends. The “Golden Girls” then shipped their bikes to Venice. When they went to the train station to collect their bikes, the railway workers wouldn’t release them – they wanted money, of course. Faye and her naïve friends didn’t understand the nefarious ways of some countries. They made their way to a nearby brand new hostel and without speaking any Italian, or their hosts speaking any English, they had a memorable and delicious dinner sitting overlooking the Mediterranean. The next morning they went to the police station and met an accommodating female police officer who spoke just enough English to understand their plight. The officer helped retrieve their bicycles in short order. The “Golden Girls” then cycled along the Italian and French Riviera to Avignon with only a one burner stove for all their cooking! With no support van, they had to carry all their camping gear on their bikes. They then took the train back to Frankfurt and flew home.
At this point in the story, I’m sure you are wondering, as I did – 1) how did Faye get all that travel time off work? And 2) who looked after the children while she was travelling all over the world? Good questions! Faye continued to work as an RN part time for most of her career, allowing her the freedom to take whatever time off she wanted. She says that after so many years she was making nearly as much as the full time nurses and was very fortunately included in the nurses pension plan, which today is not offered to part time employees. Faye didn’t start her adventures until the children were older and able to look after themselves.
In 1993 when she cycled the other half of Canada, from Vancouver to Winnipeg, the cycling group was billeted at various neighbors near her mother’s home where they showered and changed. They slept in tents in her mother’s back yard. It was a memorable trip for several reasons. Her two sisters (Marlene shares Faye’s park model in the winter and Cheryl also visits VDO) were there to help celebrate their accomplishment. She also met a new man, Barton, who led many of their cycling trips over the following years. Faye and Barton were together for 13 ½ years until his unfortunate death in 2006. She has retained some wonderful memories of their life and trips together. That same fall of 1993, she and Barton flew to Ottawa and rode bicycles to Boston, to see the fall colors as they passed through the New England states. It was a month long trip, but as Faye says, cycling is not expensive when you camp in a tent.
In 1994 she cycled the Dempster highway, from Dawson City across the Arctic Circle to Inuvik, high in the Canadian Arctic. This was a gravel road all the way, with no public showers or toilets, so she has those memories etched in her mind. They flew into Tuktoyaktuk on the Arctic Ocean, which is about as far north as civilization gets in the Canadian frozen tundra. They did this just to see it and to say they had been there!
In 1995, they again flew to Ottawa and rode around Lake Ontario. They also drove from Vancouver to Moab, Utah and cycled all over that part of the country for two weeks.
In 1996, they rode across the United States from San Diego to St Augustine Florida! When they got to New Orleans, they arrived just as sirens were warning of an approaching Tornado and took refuge in a post office. They were scheduled to stay in a camp ground that night but it was flooded and the parents of the campground owner invited the group to stay at their home. The next day the parents, who owned a crawfish farm, had a huge crawfish boil for them. Just ‘Louisiana hospitality’ she says.
In 1997 they rode down the Baja from San Diego to Cabo San Lucas. 1998 was the year Faye retired from nursing. To celebrate – you guessed it – they went on a cycling trip! This time it was South Africa. They rode from Port Elizabeth to Cape Town along the beautiful, scenic garden route. Then she, Barton and the group took a safari from Cape Town to Namibia, Botswana and Zimbabwe, as far north as Victoria Falls. They saw lots and lots of wildlife, of course. 1998 was also Faye’s first trip to VDO. She was looking for somewhere that was dog friendly and where she could play tennis. They first went to Mesa Regal but Barton didn’t like it so they looked around and found VDO, which fit the bill, and she has been here ever since. As with so many of our members, she started playing tennis as a 1.5 and now plays 3.5!
1999 saw them ride from Vancouver to San Diego all along the coast highway and right through Los Angeles! She says riding across the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco was a highlight of that trip. That year they also rode through parts of South America, namely Chile, Argentina and Peru. They left their bikes in Lima, Peru and took the train to Machu Picchu, Peru.
She has also ridden through the southern part of Cuba and another time the group rode across Newfoundland. Apparently one of the cyclists used to teach school in a remote community called St Anthony, NFLD. When they arrived there, many of her former students threw a big party for their former teacher and all her cycling friends. Another year they cycled the rest of the Canadian Maritime Provinces (excluding Newfoundland).
In 2010 they flew to Ho Chi Min city (Saigon) and cycled the south part of Viet Nam then flew over the central part to Hanoi in the north and cycled as far as the Chinese border
In 2011 they went to New Delhi and took the train to Agra to see the Taj Mahal. They then cycled the province of Rajastan and flew to Kerala and cycled there. Following that she flew from New Delhi to Nairobi, Kenya to visit her daughter Lee-Anne who lives there with her husband and two children.
In 2012 she and two girlfriends drove Faye’s truck and camper on the Alaska highway to Whitehorse in the Canadian Yukon and cycled from Whitehorse to Haines Junction and Skagway Alaska on a circle tour. That same year they rode from Victoria BC to Port Hardy BC (only about 250 miles), then took the ferry to Prince Rupert BC and eventually a ferry to the Queen Charlotte Islands where the cycled all over “Haidi Gwaii” as it is now called.
The bicycle that Faye rides around VDO was officially retired after 40,000 miles – yes, that’s right, forty thousand miles!!! She has another two bikes at home that she now takes on her adventures.
As an aside, when I was interviewing Faye for this article, she mentioned that shortly after her marriage broke up in 1988 she was reading a magazine in her dentist’s office when she came across an article on building your own canoe. It was a light bulb moment. She wrote the couple who had built this cedar strip canoe in their basement and asked for a copy of their plans. She and a girlfriend painstakingly built an18 foot cedar strip canoe. They labored over this project to the point where they spent over $200 on sandpaper alone.! She still has the canoe and will never sell it.
Faye Wilson you are a “kick-ass” woman, and I mean this with all due respect and admiration. We are in awe of what you have done.
Thanks for sharing your story!